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What Hands Will Do: Handmade Writing Journals Crafted from Vintage Books

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Since becoming a father, I've watched my journal writing deteriorate.  I used to fill two or three large format writing journals each year.  On July 9th, I wrote this:

"I'm coming up on August 17th.  That marks one year with this same journal, and it's only half filled.  Really?  Is this what I think of my life these days?  Is this what being a ThirtySomething boils down to?"

You'd think it'd be different.  In a writing journal, the owner gets to call the shots.  Gripe about the world or that grumpy s.o.b. in the BMW who dangerously tailgated this morning on the freeway and flicked his cigarette butts out the window. Go ahead, USE THE F-WORD IN BIG CAPITAL LETTERS all over the place if it helps; it's your book, your private space.

And it's far better to do that than to work out your life by hijacking airplanes or treating your wife with indignation. For this reason, you'd think it'd be a no-brainer to sit down with a pen and blank book and just tell it like you see it, work out the grime of your own little world, write down the moments with your daughter and wife that sustain you . . .

This year, I've set a goal to write in my journal once a day, no matter how short the entry.

Anne Frank wrote in a journal. She wrote while she and her family lived in hiding in the Netherlands during World War II.  You should already know the bulk of the story.  If it hadn't been for her writing (and the foresight of Miep Gies, who helped hide the Frank family and saved Anne's diary pages from destruction.  Miep died this week at 100 years old, by the way) we may not know nearly as much about the horror Jewish familes endured during Nazi occupation.

Do you know what Anne inscribed at the beginning of her journal when she was just 13 years old?

"I hope that I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me."

I don't dare compare my modern, protected middle-class American life to her's. I only want to illuminate the one little thing she and I share - maybe you too?: a blank book we each own and write within.

I'm often disappointed when trying to find a decent store that sells nice, yet unassuming journals.  Many are leather-bound with perfect lined and gold-edged paper.  That doesn't work well for me.  Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona once had a selection fo handmade Guatemalan blank books, two of which I snatched up.  A basic black sketch book works great for me, too.

Then I found "ex libris anonymous" (www.bookjournals.com) a few years ago.  Jacob Deatherage recycles vintage books by cutting the binding off, salvaging a few sections from within, and reassembling them with 75 pages of 24/60#, acid free blank paper and the original cover.  Each book is unique, and his selection is always changing; from cookbooks and children's books to old text books. If you're lucky, you score some pages that have drawings or notes from a previous life, maybe library stamps.

Writing in a recycled book feels so befitting, like it's the right thing to do.

I've selected one of Deatherage's books to begin my small daily writing pursuit.  It once lived as a textbook for Mexico - how appropriate - complete with a map.  Check it out:

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